A kicking incident last weekend that was captured on film and made the rounds on social media, generated considerable debate among Barbados TODAY readers during this week, raising questions related to brutality and transparency within the Royal Barbados Police Force.
In the video, an individual who appears to be a uniformed police officer is seen brandishing a firearm and kicking someone lying on the ground. In response to the incident, the police issued a statement saying that an internal investigation had been launched into the matter.
However, the wording of the statement sparked more debate as it appeared to raise the possibility that the uniformed individual may not have been a police officer. The statement said the individual was dressed “in a uniform similar to one worn by members of the Royal Barbados Police Force” and the investigation would seek to determine if he was indeed a police officer.
Two questions raised by readers were: can anyone walk into a local retail clothing store and purchase a police special service unit uniform? Are persons walking around dressed in uniform who are not policemen? One reader saw the police statement as an attempt to insult the intelligence of the public
“Mr Commissioner, please, this is serious. Don’t let us start to pretend that it’s difficult to see the face of a man on video, have obvious records of personnel on duty, records of who would have responded to particular calls, and still find it difficult to know if a man we all see is a member of the Force. That investigation with all the information you need before you is too easy. Really? All of a sudden the great RBPF needs Sherlock (Holmes) for this.”
Other readers did not take such a sarcastic and humorous approach. They joined with attorneys-at-law David Comissiong and Andrew Pilgrim to say that what was seen in the video, amounted to police brutality,
One reader said: “I think it is ridiculous how our society thinks (it) is OK that a police officer can do this to another individual and nothing comes of it. No one deserves to be kicked and to make matters worse, he was on the ground detained, head between the officer legs and arm held down. So for that officer (or person that is “assisting” the police as they try to portray it) to come over and do what he did was a blatant case of police brutality. As for the persons that think that the police was in the right here, you should ask yourself if this was your brother or son, would you feel the same way.”
A reader expressed the view that nothing will be done unless payouts from lawsuits start to weigh on the Government’s purse. “It seems like most of the masses believe that a police officer has this right to draw his weapon whenever and wherever he chooses and also that they have all rights to beat up on someone just because they are perceived as a criminal, gangster or a perpetrator of a crime. Well you masses are wrong. Until the RBPF get their act together, hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars will be paid out to victims of police brutality because police officers are not a law unto themselves.”
Another reader called with others for the removal of ‘bad’ officers from the force, contending that “they are only tarnishing the exceptional reputation of the other law abiding, and public serving police officers.” The reader added: These types must not be supported, but must be purged from the system. I know it takes time, and gathering of evidence, but start with the officer in charge of the unit, and the officer in charge of the shift on Sunday. Let them provide credible reports of the circumstances or, be placed on suspension so another selected senior officer can investigate. The officers in the video should be placed on suspension, but obviously this will only happen if and when the lawyers for those assaulted bring a criminal complaint against the officers.”
Members of the Barbadian public have had their say on the kicking incident, strongly condemned it, expressed their views on the police and are demanding answers. Clearly, they interpreted the police statement as an attempt to sidestep the problem and would welcome a clear outline on how the force and the Attorney General, as minister responsible for the Police, intend to deal with the issue of brutality going forward.